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Studying abroad expands horizons

Letter to the Editor | Friday, October 3, 2003

In responding to Will McDonald’s Oct. 2 letter, I do not feel the need to state the great benefits of studying abroad. We, who have experienced it, those who want to, or those who unfortunately cannot because of one reason or another, already know the many gains and opportunities. Maybe the programs are over-rated, and too many people speak too highly of them, but I believe that this isn’t so. Why would these programs be so competitive? Why do most students come back with a greater sense of themselves, life, and what is important to him or her? It is no wonder that we want to share this experience with everyone we meet.

I spent last year in Innsbruck, Austria. I’ll admit that I did not know what to expect when I got on that plane and flew 4,000 miles from home. At one point I did think I was crazy. How could I miss an entire football season? Would I really have to speak German on my own, not just in a classroom setting? Being on campus was for me, as a freshman, my world, second home and unfortunately my “bubble.” How could I leave a place this great? But, after the year I had, I can tell you that leaving the comfort of this “bubble” was a fulfilling, life-changing experience.

McDonald referenced Ralph Waldo Emerson in his letter and said that he thinks traveling to gain experiences is unfulfilling and hollow. I don’t know if most people know this and I didn’t until I looked it up, but Emerson, in his own life, traveled extensively and spent much of his time meeting new people in Europe. If he believed traveling is unfulfilling, he has that right too, since he spent much of his life in transit. I don’t know if you have ever been abroad, but if you have not, I feel that you do not have the right to pass judgment on those of us who have been abroad or on the programs themselves.

Many students haven’t been here for as long as McDonald has. Some freshmen have been here for less than two months. They do not know of such programs, just as I didn’t when I was in their position. If one of these articles has helped a person to broaden his or her horizons and study abroad, then I am glad that these articles are written and posted in the newspaper. McDonald can choose not to read them.

McDonald has based most of his opinions of studying abroad on one program – London. I did not study there, and I do not know the programs details. However, I can tell you that while I was in Austria, my GPA did not increase. On the contrary, it decreased. I will not say that I did not “share in life’s cup,” because that would be lying, but I also got the chance to pray in St. Vitus in Prague, to watch Phantom of the Opera in Her Majesty’s Theatre and to walk down the same streets that you are reading about in history books.

I learned German skills that allow me to study texts and books by authors such as Goethe in their original languages. One thing that I ask myself is why someone would not want to share in such great experiences as these? You ask, “What else is out there and why can’t you get it here at Notre Dame?” I can tell you that there is an entire world out there that you will eventually have to encounter when you leave the safety of this campus.

Mary Ann Lueken



Oct. 2